General Studies-01

{Op-Ed}It’s not enough to know who killed Mahatma Gandhi-we must understand why he was killed

 Key fact: Sixty-nine years down the line, Pankaj Phadnis has appealed that the Supreme Court reinvestigate the death of Gandhi, and holds that Gandhi was killed by a fourth bullet fired by someone else.
Authors view points:
  • Indians continue to be murdered for the same reason — therefore, the murder of a Gauri Lankesh here, of a Narendra Dabholkar there, of a Govind Pansare here, and of an M.M. Kalburgi there.
    • Gandhi was a powerful moral exemplar — therefore, he posed a distinct threat to the dark forces of doom and destruction. He had to be removed physically.
  • Nathuram Godse of the Hindu Mahasabha assassinated Gandhi because the Mahatma stood for a world view implacably opposed to the hate-filled rhetoric of the religious right.
  • It was not just Gandhi who got assassinated but entire perspective committed to ahimsa, toleration, and respect for other religious traditions was sought to be obliterated.
  • But killers target failed because Gandhi continues to live in our hearts, he inhabits our imaginations.

Albert Einstein remarked that: “generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”.

What made Gandhi great?

  • Gandhi himself was what he was, a great moral leader and a giver of remedies for the maladies of the human condition, because he drew inspiration from a variety of sources.
  • Gandhi’s truth led inexorably in the direction of toleration
  • We do not tolerate others because we alone know the truth, we tolerate because we do not know enough.
  • Confidence that we know the truth leads to violence, doubt that we know enough leads to non-violence.

General Studies-02

Sexual intercourse with minor wife is rape, says SC


  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, who is below 18 years of age, is rape.

Details of verdict:

  • A girl child below the age of 18 cannot be treated as a commodity having no say over her body or someone who has no right to deny sexual intercourse to her husband.
    The court read down Exception 2 to Section 375 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which allowed the husband of a girl child — between 15 and 18 years of age — blanket liberty and freedom to have non-consensual sexual intercourse with her.
  • The exception had remained an anomaly because Section 375 itself mandated that sex with a girl below 18 years of age, with or without her consent, was statutory rape.
  • With this judgment, considered by experts as trigger to declaring child marriage void ab initio, the court ended the decades-old disparity between Exception 2 to Section 375 IPC and other child protection laws.

SC to frame norms for drafting ‘living wills’


  • A person’s advance directive to withdraw medical care to allow him to die with dignity should take effect only when a medical board affirms that his medical condition is beyond cure and irreversible, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said on Wednesday.

Informed consent:

  • It would lay down guidelines for drafting living wills and how it could be authenticated. It had reserved the case for judgment.
  • The court is hearing a petition by an NGO, Common Cause, to legalise euthanasia and the concept of living will.
  • A certificate from a statutory medical board that a patient’s condition was beyond cure and irreversible would take care of apprehensions of relatives and doctors about withdrawing life support.
    The legalisation of “advance directives” would amount to the waiving of the paramount fundamental right to life enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.

U.K. race audit shows British Indians are better off


  • The British government published a report earlier this week highlighting the huge differences in the experiences of ethnic minority groups across Britain in terms of access to public services ranging from education to health as well as in the outcomes and treatment they experienced.

Beyond News:

  • It Builds up a snapshot of the British Indian community, which appeared to show them often to be better off than their counterparts from other ethnic minority groups.
  • On employment, British Indians had among the highest rates of hourly pay, above the national average and the white British community, while levels of employment was only marginally lower than that of white British (73% against 75%).
  • British Indians also did well in areas of education, with one of the higher rates of students achieving at least 3 A grades at A level in the final school exams.

General Studies-04

{Op-Ed}The will to die

The debate on allowing euthanasia as a means to protect the dignity of patients in a vegetative state has crystallised into a key question before a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.

Should the law allow ‘living wills’?

  • These are advance directives that people can lay down while being sound of mind, on whether they should continue to get life-sustaining treatment after they reach a stage of total incapacitation, that is, a vegetative state.
  • The question is fraught with legal, moral and philosophical implications.
  • The court will have to resolve the question whether the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, which according to an earlier verdict does not include the right to die, is being voluntarily waived by a person giving such an advance directive.
  • A living will,may relieve the close family members and caregivers of a terminally ill patient of the moral burden of making a life-ending decision.

In case of US jurisdiction:

  • Under U.S. jurisdiction patient autonomy is paramount, and many States have laws allowing advance directives, even the nomination of a ‘health care proxy’ who can decide on behalf of the patient.

Should India follow suit?

  • The court has indicated that it may lay down comprehensive guidelines on operationalising the idea of living wills.
  • The government has opposed the concept of an advance directive, arguing that it would be against public policy and the right to life.

Back to history:

  • The Supreme Court, in a landmark verdict in 2011, ruled out any support for active euthanasia, but laid down a broad legal framework for passive euthanasia, or the withdrawal of life support subject to safeguards and a fair procedure.

Current scenario:

  • In the present case, the court may have to draw up stringent safeguards for certifying living wills, preferably by a judicial officer, and lay down the exact stage at which the advance directive becomes applicable.
  • The court’s observation that it would kick in only after a medical board rules that a person’s condition is incurable ought to be sufficient reassurance for those concerned about its possible misuse.
  • The present law provides for advance directives regarding treatment of mental illness, so the concept is not new to Indian law.
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